As the weather warms up (and even as summer approaches), it’s time to start rolling out activities for kids to keep their brains occupied as well as their bodies. Stephen Tomecek, a geologist who has authored over 45 nonfiction books for teachers and children and consults with ABCMouse.com, has three awesome activities that you can do with your children to make science easy, fun, and engaging. Check the out and keep them in your back pocket for this summer!
Getting the Scoop on Soil: Head for the backyard or get a bucket of soil and let your young one explore. Soil has so many interesting properties depending on if it is wet or dry. Have your child look at and feel the soil: What color is it? How does it feel – is it sticky and wet or hard and dry? Does it feel smooth or rough? What kinds of things are they finding in there –bugs, pieces of plants or rocks? Parents can help children understand that there are many different materials in soil and different soils have varying properties, such as texture and composition. This fun, outdoors activity is excellent for building a child’s observational skills, in addition to helping children understand that scientists often look at different properties of materials to compare things and place them into different groups.
Bubble-ology: Blowing bubbles is a favorite activity of many young children. They love to watch them float high into the sky and see them pop, but soap bubbles also offer you the opportunity to do some serious science investigations with your young ones while having tons of fun! Start with a cup of plain water and using a straw have your child blow into the water to make bubbles. The child will observe that the bubbles pop almost as fast as they form. Add a few squirts of dishwashing liquid to the water and gently stir it up. Ask your child to predict what will happen when he or she blows into cup again. This time the bubbles don’t pop as fast and begin the fill the top of the cup. Stop and take a close look at the bubbles that have formed: How are they shaped? What is filling up the inside of the bubbles? How did adding the detergent to the water change what happened to the bubbles? Parents can help children understand that when different materials mix together changes often happen. In addition children can observe what happens when a liquid and gas interact. This fun activity not only helps to build children’s observational skills but it introduces them to the concept of change. It also allows children to understand that prediction is a big part of science and that predictions can be tested by experimentation.
Go with the flow: Whether it’s in the bathtub or in the kitchen, children love to explore water and other liquids. Here’s a way to use their natural curiosity to make some discoveries of their own about the behavior of liquids. Get four small plastic cups and four plates. Fill each cup about half way with one of the following liquids: water, cooking oil, pancake syrup, and catsup. Have the child start by describing how each of the liquids looks and feels when he or she sticks a finger in each cup. Make sure to wipe off the finger with a wet paper towel after each trial! Next have the child observe how each of the liquids acts when you pour a small amount onto a plate. Which liquids are sticky? Do the liquids flow fast or slow? What happens to the shape of each liquid when you pour it on the plate? By observing these common liquids children see that different liquids behave in different ways and have different properties, but all liquids have some things in common including the fact that they can flow and change their shape to match the container that they are in. These last two properties allow scientists to place liquids in their own group or state of matter which is very different from either solids or gases.